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Framed around Queen Victoria's decision on England's political stance towards the Zulu Nation, this mini-series details King Shaka's rise and fall with mythic detail. Prophecy is mixed with recorded fact regarding Shaka's birth, exile, innovations in warfare, assumption of the throne, building of the Zulu Empire, first contact with Europe and the events that lead to his downfall. Written by
Renee Ann Byrd <email@example.com>
This has been the most repeatedly screened mini-series ever shown on television in the United States. By 1992, over 350 million viewers had seen it. The series dislodged The Hunters (1962) and The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) and its sequels as the prime shaper of American perceptions of "tribal" history in southern Africa. The series even achieved cult status. The UK actors who worked on the project were nearly blacklisted by the UN. See more »
Dr. Henry Fynn:
It would appear that Sommerset was right, wouldn't it? It all comes down to blowing their heads off.
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"Shaka Zulu" the ten part mini-series is an interesting mix of good film-making and bad film-making. Certain scenes are beautifully done and perfectly paced while others seem to be the work of a bored and untalented film student.
The late William C. Faure's talent as a director really starts to shine when the story is told from the Zulu point of view. For instance, the love scene between Nandi and Senzagakona at the river is beautifully played and executed. The scenes with the young Shaka are generally over played and poorly directed. All the scenes with the British are of a poor standard especially the pontificating and condescending opening scene with the Zulu King and Queen Victoria. The best British scenes are the ones involving Christopher Lee.
The acting is generally of a very high standard. Edward Fox is as good as always. He plays his part with dash and honesty rarely seen nowadays. Robert Powell is his usual studied and self-conscious self. The beautiful Dudu Kkhize portrays Nandi and for the most part she is very good.
The most remarkable performance has to be that of Henry Cele as Shaka. It is hard, if not impossible, to imagine anyone else in the part of Shaka. He is simply perfect in every aspect and is a surprisingly good actor. It is possible to empathize with Shaka, even understand him and this is because of the towering performance given by Henry Cele. He lets you inside the mind of this despot and translates his pain, confusion and arrogance. This has to be one of the best pieces of casting in cinema history. Conrad Magwaza gives a great performance as Shaka's father, Senzagakona. He plays the part with confidence, comedy and charm.
The production design and costumes for the Zulu sequences are first class. Also a remarkable amount of historically accurate material finds itself within the script and this has to be commended. The death of Shaka is open to interpretation but it is generally believed that a relative poisoned him.
The contrasting styles of film-making that abound in this production are a shame. An inept scene usually follows an excellent one and visa versa. I am sure this was partly due to the tight scheduling and production constraints.
The musical score is dated and histrionic. A low quality keyboard orchestra pervades scenes that need no accompaniment and destroys certain well-crafted moments. The songs are pretty cheesy as well. With the wealth of extraordinary Zulu music that exists, it is a shame that the score could not have utilized its rhythms and instruments to a more satisfying degree.
Having so little African history on film, this mini series has to be classed as a classic. The whole experience is rewarding, exciting and surprisingly refreshing.
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